DECEMBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

December is a hot month that flies past in the build-up towards Christmas and taming the garden after receiving some welcome rain. Cattle egrets flying low over the trees were the first birds to greet the month – making their way to the various members of the Urban Herd that regularly graze near our home. Speckled Mousebirds also fly across the garden as they search for edible berries here and there – they have ignored the fruit I put out and so I imagine there is plenty of natural food about for them at this time of the year. A pair of Common Starlings have been stuffing their beaks with food to take back to their chicks and – such sad news – the Lesser-striped Swallows had almost finished building their mud nest when it came tumbling down. Here they are ‘discussing’ their future plans.

It is always a pleasure to see the pair of Spectacled Weavers visiting the feeding area.

We usually only see a single pair of Greyheaded Sparrows, but this month they had one youngster with them.

I cannot resist showing you yet another photograph of Meneer, the Common Fiscal, who daily comes to see what titbits I have on the table and eats them from my hand. My youngest granddaughter stepped outside a few days ago, a ginger biscuit in hand, and was taken aback when this same fiscal fluttered in front of her face and cheekily took a bite of her biscuit!

The most exciting sighting – and the luckiest shot ever – this month was seeing a Burchell’s Coucal alight on a branch of the Erythrina tree. I grabbed my camera and focused on it through my study window, clicked and when I looked up it had disappeared as silently as it had arrived! We have been hearing its burbling calls all month.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Amethyst Sunbird
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pin-tailed Whydah
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Rednecked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Spotted Thick-knee
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-fronted Canary

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NOVEMBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

November is a month that seems to have sped by. I have been on the road more than usual and we have had inconvenient time slots for power outages – all of which have contributed to the late posting of my monthly overview of the birds visiting our garden. The third of November heralded the blooming of the first Pompon tree flowers and now our garden is brightened with the trees covered in beautiful pink blossoms.

November is also the start of having pesky mosquitoes around and is the time from which I can expect ants, spiders and beetles to land on me from the shady branches I sit under whilst watching birds! The first bird to draw my attention was a Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul displaying the avian version of panting in the heat – called gular fluttering.

We have experienced temperatures of up to 36°C, so there has been need for all of us to pant a little! Red-eyed Doves are more sensible and generally remain within the shade of the trees and have seldom been seen in the open during the hottest parts of the day. The heat has meant that Cape White-eyes have been visiting the nectar feeder regularly – they have also been enjoying the apples and pears. The Bronze Manikins continue to delight as they fill the feeders with their little bodies.

While the Laughing Doves generally gather in the nearby trees for at least twenty minutes before coming down to feed, there are always a few of them that prefer to filch seed from the feeder rather than joining the masses on the ground. I found the antics of this one particularly amusing.

Southern Masked Weavers have been kept busy feeding their chicks. I enjoy watching them stuff their beaks with fruit to feed their chicks perched nearby. At one point this month the Cape Weavers appeared to be the dominant weaver in the garden. They have now been usurped by Village Weavers.

The Common Fiscals have also been taking food away for their chicks. Meneer still seems to prefer the titbits I offer in my hand rather than helping himself from the dish. While on the subject of feeding, it has been interesting to note that the Black-headed Orioles have shown a definite preference for meat over fruit, which makes me think they too might be feeding chicks hidden somewhere in the dense foliage.

To round off, the Hadeda Ibis chick has made the successful progress from being nest-bound to walking around the garden in the company of one or both parents.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo-Shrike
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pin-tailed Whydah
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-fronted Canary

OCTOBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

We are delighted to have received 43mm of very light rain during this month – albeit it in dribs and drabs of a few millimetres at a time. This is well below the annual average of 64mm, so we cannot help hoping that November will bring us a lot more rain. Every drop helps though and we have been blessed with a swathe of spring flowers in the veld and the trees in our garden have greened up almost miraculously. Speaking of green, the first bird to make it on my list this month was none other than a Green Woodhoopoe. Although they have been regular visitors, they are far from easy to photograph as they tend to call from within the foliage where they are looking for insects hiding under loose bark or poking their beaks into the dry leaves of the aloes to find food.

The two Common Fiscals continue to entertain us with their antics – both keep a wary eye out for each other before they collect food. Judging from their rapid back and forth movements, I suspect they are both feeding chicks. Their nests are far apart in different directions so they only meet at the feeding station. Bronze Manikins are also always entertaining the way they huddle together on the feeders. Southern Masked Weavers have been plentiful – I am intrigued by how quickly the females especially tuck into the minced meat I put out occasionally. The Cape Weavers have been more interested in the seeds as well as the nectar feeder.

Cape White-eyes are also regular visitors to the nectar feeders.

The Pin-tailed Whydahs have obviously staked their territory elsewhere: we occasionally see a male or two dancing around, but mostly catch sight of the females taking a respite from all the romance to feed quietly on seeds that have fallen to the ground from the hanging feeders.

I suspect the next door cats have made the Cape robin-chats a lot more wary than they used to be, so I was pleased to photograph this one even though the light was not that good.

‘Newcomers’ this month include a few visits from an African Harrier Hawk – the garden becomes absolutely silent when it comes by; a pair of Cape Wagtails have been bobbing around the edge of our swimming pool; Crowned Hornbills paid us a brief visit as they were perhaps passing through town; it is lovely hearing the Diederik Cuckoo and Knysna Turacos calling; a Spectacled Weaver called round for a few days in a row, as did a pair of Forest Canaries. My greatest delight was the arrival of the Lesser-striped Swallows and the White-rumped Swifts.

I regularly hear the calls of Black-collared Barbets and see them in the trees as well as the feeding tray now and then.

My bird list for this month:
African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo-Shrike
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Crowned Hornbill
Diederik Cuckoo
Forest Canary
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pin-tailed Whydah
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

SEPTEMBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Despite having been away for a while, this has proved to be a satisfying month of birdwatching in my garden. At night and during the early hours of most mornings we are serenaded by a Fiery-necked Nightjar. An African Darter has flown over ‘my’ airspace a few times in order to make my list and Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbuls have made cheerful forays to the feeding table. The sounds of cuckoos can be heard – the Piet-my-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo) is another clear sign that spring is here to stay.

On that note, while the sun rises ever earlier, the mornings remain fairly chilly and so it is not surprising to find a flock of Bronze Mannikins gathered in the branches of a Dais cotonifolia to warm up for a while before their breakfast:

I feature the Common Fiscals a lot in these posts, largely because they are such characters and are photogenic to boot. Spotty has even brought a chick along to the feeding area to see what the offerings are. The biggest surprise for me though was the sighting of the only female Common Fiscal I have ever seen in our garden. She did not appear to be connected to either Spotty or Meneer and I have not seen her since. Note the chestnut flanks that characterise the females:

As you can see, I have purchased a new feeder – I’m not sure how well this configuration is being received, but the other one requires a thorough cleaning (when we get a reasonable supply of water again!). Here a Southern Masked Weaver is trying it out accompanied by Bronze Mannikins:

A Grey-headed Sparrow is enjoying a solo feeding session:

Also catching the morning sun whilst keeping an eye out for the neighbouring cats are these Laughing Doves:

I mentioned the Hadeda Ibis nest last month. So far there is no sign of either eggshells at the base or chicks on the nest, so the eggs are still being incubated:

My bird list for this month:
African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
Yellow Weaver

AUGUST 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

After having spotted an African Hoopoe high up in the Erythrina caffra last month, I was very pleased to see one looking for insects on our back lawn – easily visible through our kitchen window. A pair of Streaky-headed Seedeaters are regular visitors throughout the day – either perched on the seed feeder or eating the seeds that have fallen to the ground. The Hadeda Ibis nest is now complete and, I suspect, eggs are in the process of being incubated.

Both Common Fiscals – Meneer and Spotty – are being kept very busy collecting food to feed their chicks. They do not like each other and frequently clash in the feeding area. Meneer sometimes approaches me as soon as I open the door to put food out and takes food from my hand. Spotty has always been a lot more cautious, yet even this one has seen on which side the bread is buttered and now happily approaches the dish of finely cut up meat or fish on the table even while I am enjoying my tea. Not only that … this wily creature has noticed me sitting in the sun in the back garden too and perches on the wash line whilst flapping its wings gently enough: I need food … the message gets through well enough and I put out a few titbits which are removed in a flash.

Only four Red-necked Spurfowl regularly visit the garden now: a hen with three chicks. They too are becoming more used to our presence and now boldly walk past us to eat the seed that has fallen under the feeders. I have taken to scattering some crushed maize on the brick surround of the pool and they are happy enough to peck at it even though I am sitting a short distance from them. The Bronze Manikins are a joy to watch as they perch closely together on a high branch to catch the last of the sun on chilly afternoons.

The Cape Robin-chats have paired up and are probably having to feed chicks too, for I see each of them taking regular turns to collect what they can from the feeding tray before they disappear into the shrubbery.

Given that the weather is warming up, there appears to be a greater call on the nectar feeder. The Cape White-eyes visit it several times a day:

While the Black-headed Oriole only comes occasionally. This picture was taken from my bedroom window.

Weavers like the nectar feeder too. This Cape Weaver is waiting in the queue.

Lastly, for this month, is a visit from an Olive Thrush perched on the edge of the bird bath.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Barthroated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver